Mitch Speed

  • picks April 05, 2018

    Dave McKenzie

    Sometimes, the referential and spatial aspects of an exhibition sync almost too perfectly. Case in point: Dave McKenzie’s “Speeches Speeches Speeches,” which might produce a humming sensation inside a viewer, as the brain’s capacity to recognize signifiers is repeatedly cross-wired with the body’s capacity to relate to objects. In this attention to form and space, the show thus harkens to something like modernism à la Brancusi. But paradoxically, this old-school methodology is carried out by arranging curious ready-made objects along with others just a shade too unique to have rolled off the

  • View of “Gwenn Thomas: Standard Candles,” 2017–2018.
    picks December 29, 2017

    Gwenn Thomas

    To walk the city after sundown is to experience vicarious warmth; glowing windows signify—rightly or not—warm interiors, full tables, and hospitable families. Threading a line between sentimentality and analytic detachment, Gwenn Thomas’s exhibition reckons with the window’s status as an interchange of conviviality and loneliness, fantasy and veiled reality. On the walls of this two-room gallery, she has hung eleven simulated panes, made from wood and metal frames, over photographs of exterior windows and translucent plastic laminate or Plexiglas.

    The most uncanny pieces tend to recall

  • View of “Wiebke Siem: Damenskulptur” (Lady Sculpture), 2017.
    picks December 06, 2017

    Wiebke Siem

    Celery sticks, green beans, vibrant lemons, rotund tomatoes: All come to mind when one thinks through Wiebke Siem’s exhibition “Damenskulptur (Lady Sculpture).” Neither fruits nor vegetables actually appear in the German artist’s seven sculptures (all works untitled, 2017), in which cartoonish, languid, humanoid shapes made from wool felt hang from the gallery’s darkened ceiling, but the show is a deft exercise in material transmogrification, wherein basic shapes and materials exceed their common reputations.

    Siem’s singular achievement here is in letting both the stick figure—one of the

  • Rodrigo Hernández, Eva, 2017, oil, acrylic, wood, papier-mâché, 12 x 14 x 7".
    picks October 09, 2017

    Rodrigo Hernández

    Where is this beloved Eva, whose name is incorporated into the title for Rodrigo Hernández’s current exhibition and serves as the namesake for each work within it? She is in the past: a onetime lover of Picasso, who inscribed her name on a piece of gingerbread in his 1912 collaged painting Guitar: “J’aime Eva.” There’s something cruelly comedic, of course, in etching one’s love into a cheap edible, destined to go stale. Hernández’s show converts this spirit of perverse amour into a series of relief paintings—done in oil, acrylic, wood, and papier-mâché—that radiate Cubism’s influence without

  • Caleb Considine, Whitney (profile), 2017, oil on canvas, 15 x 12 x 1".
    picks July 07, 2017

    Caleb Considine

    There’s something unsettling about freshly made, nearly Photorealist paintings in a contemporary art gallery. These days, it seems a truism that such painstaking renderings risk artistic obsolescence, if not cultural conservatism. Caleb Considine’s exhibition of small oil paintings featuring fastidiously depicted objects and visages, eggshell smooth factures, and faintly limned outlines, impassively court this judgment. In Trestle (all works cited, 2017), the girders of a train bridge cut steep angles across a canvas. The bleached green iron is streaked with rust and draws attention to shadows

  • Rebecca Morris, Untitled (#07-17), 2017, oil on canvas, 98 x 88".
    picks June 02, 2017

    Rebecca Morris

    Rebecca Morris’s new works are dangerously close to being feel-good kitsch, only to evade that fate by the skin of their proverbial teeth. Each of the five large paintings in this show is composed of fragmentary shapes cobbled into offhand compositions, containing repeated gestures rendered in polite hues. In sum, the pictures feel like errant glances at the world’s endless visual patterns—interlocking bricks, speckled leaves, crumbling stucco exteriors—transmuted into the psychedelic language of abstract painting.

    If this seems like an undiscerning use of the medium’s mimetic function, it’s

  • Nickolaus Typaldos, Mineral Mountain Boogie Boogie, 2017, cast urethane resin and aluminum powder, 23 x 14 x 2".
    picks April 28, 2017

    Nickolaus Typaldos

    Nickolaus Typaldos’s current exhibition evokes a future time, in which synthetic objects have become petrified along with their organic counterparts. In this small gallery, the artist has hung four sculptures that, cast from resin and aluminum, echo space rocks and pewter. In Cloudy Old Harry (all works 2017), an unidentified bulbous shape pokes through a scrap of bubble wrap to form a tumorous lump, while in Mineral Mountain Boogie Boogie, a floppy baseball cap and a Bic lighter are fused to chunks of molded Styrofoam. Nearby, some loopy rope spelling “Anthem” riffs on the desperation of

  • Adrian Piper, The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, 2013–. Installation view.
    picks April 24, 2017

    Adrian Piper

    When speaking with former residents of East Germany, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of deceit, such as family and friends spying on one another in service to the state. Given that history, knotty questions are raised when an American artist’s installation asks visitors to question their trust in oneself and others. This is the provocation made by The Probable Trust Registry: The Rules of the Game #1–3, 2013–, an installation from Adrian Piper, who has lived in Berlin since 2005, after being placed on the United States’ list of “suspicious travelers.”

    In this museum’s cavernous main hall, three

  • Émilie Pitoiset, Kaa, 2017, leather glove, clay, aluminium shelf, 19 x 9 x 7".
    picks April 05, 2017

    Émilie Pitoiset

    Émilie Pitoiset’s exhibition hyperbolizes the truism that deciding what to keep out of art is as important as deciding what to put in. Here, absence becomes protagonist. To this end, the French artist has combined ready-made objects—namely a series of finely crafted and richly colored leather gloves—with diminutive sculptures to make mise-en-scènes. The seven gloves—with titles such as The BCBG and Kaa, both 2016–17—come to exceed their cool bourgeois pretensions, betraying a range of subtle personality traits.

    Their posture produces this effect: The gloves clench fists, lie flat, grasp metal

  • Camilla Steinum, Determined Nap, 2017, wool and metal, 50 x 72 x 79".
    picks March 06, 2017

    Camilla Steinum

    Art and its benefactors have long been backed by the labor of working-class people—from those who produce canvases and pigments to those who schlep crates packed with million-dollar paintings. In her exhibition “In Spite of Chores,” Camilla Steinum focuses on such unseen domestic toil. Her show is a dream space made from painting and sculpture in which these laboring bodies merge like phantasms into the works themselves.

    Over three metal structures approximating jagged table frames the artist has draped paintings made from household carpets. Within each, bodies and stars are described through

  • John Smith, The Man Phoning Mum, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 12 minutes.
    picks February 06, 2017

    John Smith

    In 2010, John Smith’s 1976 black-and-white film The Girl Chewing Gum was included in the Berlin Biennale as an installation in a storefront space a few steps from the city square of Oranienplatz, endlessly crisscrossed by residents and tourists. Berlin’s gentrification was in full swing then, making Smith’s film, though cheeky and playful, feel like a destabilizing dream about memory, time, and social control.

    The classic film achieves virtual-reality effects through humble means: a few grainy black-and-white shots and a simple voice-over. We see people going about their business on a London